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November 29, 1991 - Image 34

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1991-11-29

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

NATIONAL

Photos by Craig Terkowitz

0

Yitzhak Shamir
strongly backed
Israel's policies
at the plenary
Nov. 21.

Angst Over Assimilation

At the CJF General Assembly, communal leaders
began the painful task of confronting intermarriage and
the general decline in Jewish community affiliation.

IRA RIFKIN

Special to The Jewish News

T

he 60th General
Assembly of the Coun-
cil of Jewish Federa-
tions, which ended Sunday
in Baltimore, was marked by
a formal recognition on the
part of national communal
leaders that "raising Jews"
is as much a part of their job
as is raising money.
No longer, the nearly
3,000 federation delegates
from across the United
States and Canada acknowl-
edged in a new CJF mission
statement, can the consen-
sus-minded body shy away
from the divisive issues of
intermarriage and the gen-
eral decline in Jewish re-
ligious and communal iden-
tification. Of equal concern
for the delegates was just
how to confront these issues
during a time of worsening
economic recession.
The rate of assimilation, as
detailed by CJF's own 1990
National Jewish Population

34

FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 29, 1991

Study, has become too great
for CJF and the federation
system —which comes closer
than any other institution to
being a Jewish community
clearing house — not to get
involved in some as yet
undefined coordinating
and/or directive capacity,
G.A. delegates and CJF
leaders agreed.
"We need to promote
Judaism as a religion and
Jewishness as a culture,"
said David G. Sacks, a CJF
vice president, and the pres-
ident of the UJA-Federation
of Jewish Philanthropies of
New York.
"We've acted too much
like a trade association in
the past. Federations are not
just in the business of rais-
ing money, but must also be
in the business of raising
Jews," he said.
The implications for fed-
erations of this new em-
phasis on the quality and
continuity of North Ameri-
can Jewish life are profound.
For one, it is likely to
become the driving force in a

radical restructuring of the
relationships between the
New York-based CJF and
the nearly 200 local federa-
tions across North America
that come under its um-
brella. The major stumbling
block here is how to balance
centralized planning with
local autonomy, a much
cherished facet of federation
life.
The process is already
under way, thanks to the
need to resettle Soviet Jews,
and the realization that
problem-solving today re-
quires a continental and
even global approach. But
the growing perception that
assimilation has the poten-
tial to doom American Jew-
ish life, coupled with the
recession-induced need to
maximize financial
resources, is apt to ac-
celerate the process.
"The time has come to rec-
ognize we are a continental
(Jewish) community faced

with collective responsibility
(and) facing a global respon-
sibility called Clal Yisroel,
said Shoshana Cardin, a
former CJF president from
Baltimore who now chairs
the Conference of Presidents
of Major American Jewish
Organizations.
In addition, the new em-
phasis may force a closer

working relationship bet-
ween largely secular federa-
tions and the theologically
tricky world of the syn-
agogues.
Until now, synagogues
have led the effort to stem
assimilation. But their
efforts have been

Continued on Page 36

Youngsters at the G.A. belied the dismal concern for the future.

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